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William F Buckley Jr, RIP

William F. Buckley Jr., the elder statesman of  conservative intellectuals  in America (indeed, the man who established that "conservative intellectual is not an oxymoron), is dead at the age of 82. He had been suffering from emphysema and was found dead in his study by his cook. I'd heard on the radio he was at his desk. It's always good when people die with their boots on. 

I used to enjoy watching Firing Line, his television show. I liked his political commentary, and it was always fun to see which obscure word he would use. I first heard the word reify on Firing Line. I didn't know what it meant at the time, but I made sure I found out.  Once he used the word "encephalophonic". I had a co-worker who also watched the show and we were both thrown for a loop. We went to the library and after looking through several dictionaries found the word encephalophone. It is a device for translating brain waves into sounds. Encephalophonic would be the adjective form of the word. Someone or something that is encephalophonic  behaves live an encephalophone.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Buckley once. I had gone to see him speak at a fundraising dinner at King College in Tennessee. I had brought several books of his to get autographed. After he finished speaking and he was on his way out, I got out of my seat and said as he passed "Mr. Buckley could I have your autograph?". He smiled and put his hand on my shoulder and said "Come with me" and we walked out to the lobby together.

I had three books with me and he signed all of them. One of them I had purchased at a used book store. When he opened it and saw the book stores price penciled in he grinned at me and said "Oh you got this one cheap!".

Two things stand out in my mind about this encounter. First, he was a very physically imposing man. That is my sesquipidelian way of saying (which of course is the way you should say things in a Buckley obituary)that  he was really,really big. He was much taller than you would think from watching him on TV, and had broad shoulders and a barrel chest. He almost looked like a football player. A retired one in a really nice suit. Second, as I read over my description of the encounter I see that I committed multiple breaches of etiquette and he remained completely gracious (and in retrospect, probably amused at my social ineptness).

He was literally and figuratively a very big man.